Virgin Galactic has taken the wraps off a concept for an airplane capable of flying three times the speed of sound, to be developed with support from Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

The project would be distinct from Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital space plane program, which is closing in on the start of commercial operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Virgin Galactic says it's signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to collaborate on the development of supersonic vehicles for civil applications.

The agreement also involves The Spaceship Company, a Virgin Galactic subsidiary that manufactures the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane and its WhiteKnightTwo mothership. The SpaceShipTwo model known as VSS Unity has already flown to the 50-mile-high edge of space twicein California, and this week it conducted its first gliding flight test at Spaceport America, its new home in New Mexico.

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Take your pick of metaphors – rocketing, earth shattering, stratospheric - Virgin Galactic stock has been surging this year, up more than 200%. The Mojave-based company now has a market capitalization of $7.2 billion even though it only generated $3 million in revenue last year.

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